07/17/12 8:15 PM ET
Kubel close to return to D-backs' outfield
By Mark Clements / MLB.com
It seems to be the same news coming out of Arizona each day as Jason Kubel continues his recovery, but this time it seems to be for real.
Kubel left Friday's game against the Cubs early with tightness in his hamstring and has not been in the lineup since, aside from a pinch-hit appearance Saturday in Chicago.
But D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said the club feels their left fielder is nearly back to full strength.
"I talked to [head athletic trainer] Ken [Crenshaw] after the game and we just felt another day," Gibson said. "I think he's getting better. I think we're seeing improvement. I'd love him in the lineup."
Gibson said Kubel plans on running "pretty good" before Tuesday's game in Cincinnati before assessing his health again Wednesday.
"We'll see how he runs," Gibson said. "We went out there yesterday and it was kind of limited. I don't really want him to go out there if he can't run to play the outfield."
Kubel is batting .292 this season and leads the team with 15 home runs and 60 RBIs.
Upton returns to fifth spot in batting order
CINCINNATI -- For 1,662 of his 2,412 career at-bats entering Tuesday's game at Cincinnati, Justin Upton has hit third in the batting order.
He has a career .285 average from the spot, but was forced out of the familiar territory with his recent struggles at the plate.
Before Monday, Upton was hitless in his previous 10 at-bats in the Chicago series and was hitting .186 with eight hits and three RBIs in his previous 11 games.
Looking for offensive answers, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson moved Upton to the five hole, a spot he's only occupied 44 times in his career.
"It was inevitable the way I was hitting," Upton said. "I think it's a good move for the lineup for the time being and hopefully I'm back in the three hole at some point."
Despite Upton's hopes, the fifth spot may be a better fit for the six-year veteran.
Upton tallied three singles from the five-hole Monday with a walk, an RBI and a stolen base, and his .370 on-base percentage is the highest of any spot in the order where he's made more than 20 plate appearances.
"We had pretty good results [Monday] night," Gibson said. "We need offense right now. We try and get something productive out of everything we do. [Upton] has done everything I've asked, to be honest with you."
The recent moves are much-needed for Upton, who has faced some difficult times recently off the diamond as well.
Gibson said between the struggles at the plate, the constant trade talks and the criticism from the fans, this current stretch may be the toughest period of Upton's career.
"The thing he went through at home, people bullying him and stuff, that's all part of it," Gibson said. "He knows that everybody is counting on him. He knows it. That's a responsibility that is on him whether he likes it or not. He accepts it and he's attacked it the best he can. He doesn't give in by any means at all.
"It eats him up. It eats every guy in there."
But Upton has taken it all in stride.
While the two-time All Star said he prefers hitting third, he's willing to do whatever helps the team.
"It worked for us [Monday]," Upton said. "Hopefully it's something that kick-starts the team and gets us going."
D-backs still show faith in struggling Young
CINCINNATI -- His numbers may not light up the scoreboard, but Chris Young's impact in Arizona has certainly not gone unnoticed.
Young missed a month of action earlier this season after slamming into the outfield wall while making a catch in mid-April.
At the time of the injury -- after 11 games -- Young was hitting .410 with five home runs, 13 RBIs and a .500 on-base percentage and seemed to be on his way to one the best seasons of his career.
In 42 games since returning from his injury, Young has hit just .147 with four home runs, seven RBIs and a .252 on-base percentage.
"He's working hard," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "One thing I know about that kid, he's very determined, he works hard, he goes out and he's a pro. He plays his tail off. I think he's just trying to figure some things out and get better results."
Young hasn't had a multi-hit game since June 10 and knocked in three runs the entire month of June.
He hasn't hit above .158 in one month this season since the injury, but Gibson said the club still has not lost faith in their center fielder.
"We know he can do it," Gibson said. "He did it early in the year and since he's come back he's just really struggled against right handers. I think he's trying a few things and making a few adjustments so he can get on it better."
It would be easy for Young to chalk up the offensive struggles to his shoulder.
The injury should give him an excuse and also allow him to take some time to recover.
Gibson said that's just simply not the kind of player Young is. "Honestly, he wouldn't tell me [if his shoulder hurt]," Gibson said. "He's in game mode, he's in play mode. It's really one of the things that's admirable about the guy. He knows it's time to go, he's not going to run from anything regardless of how he feels."
Since 2008, Arizona's 3.21 ERA in Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park is the lowest among National League clubs.
Mark Clements is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.